Cryotherapy / Ice Pack Therapy
Ice pack therapy is a treatment of cold temperatures to an injured area of the body. An ice pack is placed over an injured area and is intended to absorb heat of a closed traumatic or swollen injury by using conduction to transfer the cold. The physiologic effects of cold application include immediate vasoconstriction and reflexive vasodilation, decreased local metabolism and enzymatic activity, and decreased oxygen demand. Cold decreases muscle spindle fiber activity and slows nerve conduction velocity, therefore it is often used to decrease spasticity and muscle guarding. It is commonly used to alleviate the pain of minor injuries.
In other words, the patient benefits through the reduction of swelling and inflammation. There is a numbing affect to the area to reduce pain and decreased muscle spasm. Finally, an ease of expense exists because it can be self-applied. We recommend that when a new injury occurs, that our patient use ice for 20 minutes at a time with an hour between applications. Also, the use of a towel to reduce the ice exposure to the tissues is suggested to prevent “frost-bite”.
Thermotherapy/Hot Pack Therapy
Thermotherapy is described as a method by which heat is applied to a specific area to reduce pain from activities as with sporting events, gardening, general muscular soreness, rib spasms or chronic aches as with arthritic changes. There are a couple of application types; one is dry heat applications and the other is moist heat. Our office recommends the use of Moist Thermotherapy as it tends to get deeper into the tissues and offer more relief in many instances. The method we prefer is to take a wet towel and place it in a microwave for just a few minutes to create a hot application being careful not to open the door and receive a face full of steam! Place the hot towel in several towels so not to burn your skin and leave for several minutes. 10 minutes can be enough time for each application.
Cold or Hot?
This is a question we receive often! If the injury is less than 72 hours, then cold or Cryotherapy is recommended. If it tends to be a new injury, ice or Cryotherapy tends to be the rule of thumb. Rib pain however can be different in that an extended time can actually cause more spasms in between the ribs, so heat for no more than 10 minutes is preferred. Occasionally, we will tell our patients to use both with the cold compress always being utilized last.
We hope this helps! If there are any questions, please call our office today!